While rewatching the third season of 30 Rock last night, a Tracy Jordan scene jumped out at me that I had never really paid attention to before. Probably because it’s the episode where Jon Hamm guest starred as a ridiculously good looking doctor who lived in a bubble. Yeah remember that episode? It’s literally called, “The Bubble.”
What you probably don’t remember from that episode is the part where Tracy Jordan quits TGS during his contract negotiations and Jack Donaghy enlists a Bill Cosby impersonator to convince him to come back. (You watch the actual clip here.)
Jack Donaghy: I’ve arranged for one of Tracy’s childhood idols to reach out to him.
Tracy Jordan: Hello?
Jack Donaghy: Tracy, this is Jack, I have someone here who wants to speak with you.
Rick: Tracy, this is Bill Cosby…
Liz Lemon: [whispering] Really? This is your strategy?
Jack Donaghy: [whispering and smiling] I heard him do this at a party!
Rick: …I want you to come back to the TGS for the people who like the jokes and the things.
Tracy Jordan: Bill Cosby, you got a lotta nerve gettin’ on the phone wit’ me after what you did to my Aunt Paulette!
Rick: I think you’re confusing me with someone else.
Tracy Jordan: 1971. Cincinnati. She was a cocktail waitress with the droopy eye!
Rick: I’m the guy… with the pudding…
Tracy Jordan: Don’t try to tell me what to do! Heathcliffe Huxtable, wit’ yo’ light-ass kids! Jack! Why would you make me talk to this man?
When I first watched this episode back in 2009, I just assumed the joke was that Tracy was crazy. And I’m sure I laughed because, man, that Tracy Jordan sure has some weird family stories. Droopy eyes, lololol. But now, knowing what we do about Bill Cosby allegedly sexually assaulting several women, this reference seems to be much more than a throwaway joke. While there’s always the possibility that it’s a crazy coincidence, that seems incredibly unlikely. Of all the comedy legends, they chose this one to accuse of sexually assaulting a woman back in the ’70s. Okay.
What seems more likely than a coincidence is that the 30 Rock writers felt frustrated that this man continually got away with his alleged sexual assaults because he was a famous TV dad. So they found a way to call him out within their show without any repercussions from the media. Because you have to keep in mind that until Hannibal Buress (a former 30 Rock writer, but not for this particular episode) spoke out against Cosby in October, it wasn’t part of the mainstream conversation. And it definitely wasn’t an accusation that you could just toss around without receiving major backlash.
Sure, as someone who works on the Internet, I’d seen it come up a few times over the past few years, but as an aside or on a list of controversial celebrity moments — but never in the way that it’s being discussed now. So props to 30 Rock for calling Cosby out way back when and even more props to them for doing it in the way that only 30 Rock could.